We’re digging through the PC Gamer Magazine archives to post articles from years past. This article originally appeared in PC Gamer Issue 197, February 2009.
What am I supposed to do? The only answer I get is to blink, laugh loudly, then try to figure out how to activate the fire hose. A bright spark decided that the next game should be a race with trucks. 32 trucks. About 25 of which turn out to be fire trucks.
As you might expect, the result is chaos. Glorious chaos. Glorious never had anything like this before chaos.
It’s one of those dark gaming secrets: if you want to play a GTA game and you’re willing to wait a few months, the PC version is always the best bet. Always. By the time of GTA 3, the PC’s generally more powerful hardware led to a game that handled cities better, included custom soundtracks, and even functioned as a shooter.
And now, as next-gen consoles are starting to get long, the PC is heading for something else. Two relevant points here. First, there’s a degree of future-proofing in GTA’s hardware settings, with options that will only become practical to enable when PCs catch up. Second, raising the multiplayer limit from 16 players on consoles to 32 on PC.
While it’s easy to dwell on the increased scale of multiplayer and its impact on the experience, that shouldn’t overshadow how great the addition of multiplayer to the GTA series is, in and of itself. , a big step forward. Previously, to have such an experience, you had to turn to mod projects such as Multi Theft Auto. Now it’s right there, and accessible.
The addition of multiple players changes the character of GTA 4. In single-player mode, it moves away from the inspired clownish silliness that has characterized the series until now – it’s just a more serious game. But when you have friends with you… well, everything goes out the window. Other players turn stupid to a frankly impressive degree simply by acting like people. And if they aren’t acting stupid without encouragement, you can change the rules to increase the chances of them going completely nuts.
[One downside to online gaming in 2009 was Games for Windows Live. Here’s what Kieron had to say about that.] Playing GTA 4’s excellent multiplayer means a certain level of initial faff. You will first need to create a Games for Windows Live account, although Xbox 360 owners can use their old Live accounts. The web forms to create this are almost incomprehensible, and the site often crashes. Then, this account will need to be linked to a Rockstar Social Club account (Rockstar’s own social network). Unfortunately, the Rockstar Social Club app runs constantly on your taskbar, even when you’re not gaming, and takes up a lot of memory for no apparent reason.
While there are loads of free-for-all, team-based, and co-op game modes, each of them is also modifiable with easily selectable options. For example, when playing the objective control game Turf War, we limit weapons to rocket launchers only. It changes things, the same way arming every knife-wielding dangerous youngster in London with an RPG would. It also brings out the intricacies of the control scheme: while the rockets are powerful, they are also slow and require precise aiming. That said, driving a car through a crossfire of half a dozen explosive projectiles and the resulting chaos – here’s that word again – is a less thoughtful, more visceral thrill.
Options are what it’s all about. Although you can play multiplayer games on all three islands of Liberty City, in practice you will select one of the closed areas. These can be as intensely small as any of the central island’s peninsulas. It all depends on the game mode you have selected. For example, Mafiya modes require you to make deals with organized crime to get the most rewards. Even direct deathmatches can be set to be more than just counting heads and racing for cash: suddenly, cleaning up fallen bodies plays as much of a role as just offending everyone. world.
There are also world options like pedestrians and traffic, which are probably best left out to make larger games playable (the framerate was climbing when those 32 fire trucks lined up on the starting line). In fact, the racing modes highlight a lot of the best in GTA 4 competitive multiplayer. Specifically, GTA racing.
If only they added the ability to physically punch people when you ride alongside them, that would be Road Rash for the late 2000s. It’s basically a racing mode with added violence. Although you all start in vehicles of the same class, you are unlikely to finish with them. While there is health to recover to repair your charge, it’s more likely that you’ll die and get back on the moped (I completed the aforementioned fire truck race on one, overtaking a truck inside , shooting an Uzi in as it tried – and failed – to run over me. And if that phrase doesn’t make you want to play video games, I’m scared for you).
Inevitably, as the worst-placed racers decide they can’t win and fight each other or make roadblocks of debris, you turn a racing game into a desperate Mad Max survival simulator. Which is hilarious.
GTA 4 as a multiplayer game works well on this axis. Even when it’s at its most standard, in its team deathmatch modes, you have a riveting collision of characters moving and battling like extras from Michael Mann’s Heat, and moments straight out of a Gangster take on Keystone Cops: Cars full of thugs leaning out of their stolen car window and optimistically opening before crashing into a bridge. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is what other humans add to GTA 4: humanity.